October 24, 2018
By Meg Dickens
The Johnson County Senior Center is a hotbed of activity. Director Kathy Motsinger took on her role nearly two years ago, and with her arrival, the senior center burst to life. The center has an average of 80 visitors daily and 1,027 members. Changes such as additional activities, a “man cave” and an exercise room are relatively new additions requested by the seniors.
“Kathy has a bubbly personality. People feel warm, invited and welcome here,” said volunteer Minnie Miller. “ It feels like you’re a part of something.”
Seniors enjoy a variety of activities at the center. For example, October 12 was Joke Fun Day. The day went over so well that seniors continue to share jokes daily. Other activities include a Senior JAM program, billiards, card games, puzzles, crafts, line dancing, Bible study, a book club, the Senior Support Group, health classes, special events and more. At least one couple met at an event held at the center and went on to be married. The senior center Fall Festival is now set for Halloween at 11 am and will include a costume contest, entertainment from the Kody Norris show, a Hee Haw show and a variety of food and desserts. Information on current events can be found on the Johnson County Senior Center’s Facebook page.
These activities are possible due to generous donations from local businesses, the community, and grants. As a nonprofit organization, the Johnson County Senior Center depends on these donations, grants, and fundraisers to stay afloat. Donated time is just as precious. The center partners with a wide variety of local organizations such as the Johnson County school system, Johnson County Center for the Arts, Danny Herman Trucking and Extra Mile Ministries, DAR, FCE, Ballad Health, Meals on Wheels and FTAAD.
The Johnson County Senior Center is a staple in the community. This type of facility allows seniors to stay mentally active, make new friends and improve health and self-esteem. Socialization is essential for mental health as well. According to Motsinger, center bus drivers spoil the seniors. It is normal for drivers such as Terry Hodge to treat his passengers to ice cream. Several locals, including Frances Hampton, say they cannot wait until they are old enough to join the center.
“All I want to do is just make people smile,” said Motsinger. “I love giving back and feel blessed to be in this position where I can serve others.”
Programs such as My Ride Johnson County help seniors maintain independence. My Ride is an Uber-adjacent program for 60 and over citizens that runs through the senior center. For a $6 donation, seniors receive rides to places such as the grocery store, doctor’s office, hairdresser and more. Volunteers escort the seniors “from door to door” to ensure that there are no problems. My Ride Johnson County Transportation Coordinator Danae Marshall confirms appointments, sends reminders to seniors and checks with the business to confirm the date and time to ensure that the experience goes smoothly. Volunteer drivers are heavily vetted for senior safety. This program will launch on Friday, October 26 and the expected first ride is on Monday, October 29. My Ride Johnson County will be temporarily limited to Johnson County and will expand further if needed.
“My Ride is a need in Johnson County, a rural area. We don’t have functional access to east trends, said volunteer and member Dr. John Payne. “We need something readily available. There’s such a need in the Johnson County area.”
Travel improves mental and physical health. Seniors are at the perfect time in their lives to travel as well. Motsinger plans a variety of day trips and overnight trips. Examples include Pigeon Forge, The Farmers Daughter, and a Wytheville dinner show. A group of 48 seniors just returned from a week in New York City. Upcoming trips include Virginia Beach and Colonial Williamsburg in April, Niagara Falls and Toronto in June and the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas in September. Contact Kathy Motsinger for more information or to sign up for an upcoming trip.